Unchecked Executive Powers: Lessons in Effective Government Design
"Without checks and balances, the executive branch of government will inevitably dominate governance structures. This tendency has been particularly pronounced in Africa, in part because countries inherited the structures of the colonialists and then proceeded to adapt them to the norms and needs of their own cultures without ensuring effective restraints on power along the way. Executive dominance encouraged a trend to monopolistic power and abuses of executive authority, and ultimately was responsible for the cult of the ‘Big Man’, the unchallengeable leader, in many African countries. Professor Ahmed Mohiddin argues that a major challenge confronting good governance in Africa is how to constrain executive power and balance its discretionary authority while not diluting its ability to fulfil its constitutional obligations or its political mandate. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) has put a spotlight on the problem. Now solutions are needed. An effective legislature and judicial system are essential as counterweights, he says, and need to be bolstered. But he believes that another key lies in the hands of Africa’s vibrant civil society institutions. Poverty, illiteracy and ignorance of the real role of government have kept ordinary people in awe of authority, and made them subservient. Properly armed with information about the obligations that governments have to their citizens, effective civil society organisations can better call the executive to account, leading to better governance and greater human rights".